"...because the fans are still the most important part of the game."
 

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IT'S OPEN SEASON ON SPORTSFANS.
December 21, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

And you don't need a hunting license to participate. All you need is a typewriter and a press pass.

Let me preface the following rant by stating that I do not defend or condone the throwing of bottles (plastic or otherwise) or other debris onto a football field, at a referee or toward an opposing player. They can eject these people, throw them in the clink or key their car for all I care. I don't want that sort sitting next to me anyway.

 
 


That said…

My blood's been boiling all week reading one column after another about "the stupid fans", "the unruly fans", "the ugly fans" and "the raucous fans". (I confess I had to look up the word 'raucous' - it means "boisterously disorderly".)

Just about every pompous, glorified stat-rat with a word processor, a thesaurus and an audience has taken a pot shot at "the fans".

Cleveland Browns Stadium holds 73,200 people, the Superdome in New Orleans - 70,200. A couple of hundred (heck, call it a thousand) get out of control and the entire group draws the ire of sportswriters coast to coast.

Now football fans - en masse - are being identified by words like "mob", "morons" and "animals". I take exception.

Why are these over-opinionated, wannabe jocks jumping all over the entire NFL fan base because of the actions of a relative few?

Well, one reason is that the fan is an easy target. The fan, you see, has no real outlet for rebuttal. I do. (Be it a small one - for now).

To these arrogant "know-it-alls", fans are nameless, fans are faceless, and fans are voiceless. Perched high above the general population in a climate controlled press box, one fan seems more or less like the next.

A bottle goes flying in Cleveland and seventy-two thousand people are to blame. "Shut down the beer taps, these people are out of control". "Better put all the drinks in plastic cups, we're dealing with animals here". "And take away those big foam fingers before somebody loses an eye".

And of course these "writers" have to bring up that "ugly" snowball-throwing debacle at Giants Stadium six years ago. (What they fail to tell you every time they have occasion to mention the incident is that for every idiot tossing a snowball, there were a hundred others trying to get them to stop and pointing out the perps to security. I guess that wouldn't make good copy.)

Seventeen million people attend football games in this country every year. Over a hundred million have attended games between the 1995 snowball "riot" and the 2001 bottle throwing "melee". And these guys have spent the last five days and thousands of words condemning "the fans".

Because we are all alike. We must be. We dress in the same colors. We root for the same team. We live in the same general area. If one of us tosses a bottle, we all toss that bottle. And it's the responsibility of the elite, superior sportswriter to admonish us all.

Maybe it would be helpful if these guys and gals spent a few games in the stands instead of the press box. Maybe they would see that the people next to them were doctors, accountants, office workers, policemen and carpenters.

Maybe they'd realize that ninety-nine percent of the "raucous crowd" was just average, hard working individuals out looking for a good time and not out looking for trouble.

Maybe they would stop lumping all fans together into one "unruly mob".

It's insulting to read (over and over) that maybe what "these fans" need is a heavy dose of "loving you is easy 'cause you're beautiful" instead of chorus after chorus of "Who Let the Dogs Out".

Because we're mindless cattle easily worked into an uncontrollable frenzy. If we Woof, we're "animals". (Of course, if we sit silently, we're apathetic).

I probably wouldn't mind the criticism as much if these same "writers" put an equal amount of effort into giving the fans some credit.

There was a packed house Sunday at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. Fans there to cheer the 0-12 Lions on to their first victory of the season. Applauding the effort of their team when it would have been a lot more convenient to get some Christmas shopping done.

And I haven't read a single article about the effort football fans have shown this year (and many years past) supporting the Marine Corp's Toys for Tots program. Thousands and thousands of gifts dropped off at stadium gates for underprivileged children.

All fans are not "morons", "goons", "idiots" or "animals". Some fans are. So are some sportswriters.

Happy Holidays.

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